John Koopmans found guilty

The jury found John Ike Koopmans guilty of two counts of second degree murder and one count of attempted murder on Saturday.

John Ike Koopmans, 51, is facing two life sentences after the jury found him guilty of two counts of second degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Koopmans was convicted for the second degree murders of Robert Keith Wharton, 43, and Rosemary Fox, 32, and the attempted murder of Bradley Martin, 51, on March 30, 2013 in Princeton.

Koopmans, who was wearing a brown collared shirt and black pants, was silent and showed no emotion when hearing the verdicts.

“We’re quite satisfied it’s the right verdict,” said Crown prosecutor Frank Dubenski outside the Penticton Court House.

Dubenski said he feels the issue of planning and premeditation is what the jury was grappling with during their deliberations, which started April 9 and concluded Saturday afternoon.

Crown prosecutor Frank Dubenski “Given the factors in the case. Some of the drinking, the alcohol intake that he had and the circumstances of the attendance of the property, I’m really not surprised that this is the verdict and it was certainly one they (the jury) were entitled to reach on the evidence in the case,” Dubenski said.

Tears were shed and sighs of relief could be heard in the courtroom from the Wharton family supporters who said they were pleased with the verdict but declined to comment further.

The jury made recommendations as to the amount of time served before Koopmans is eligible for parole. The recommendations did not have to be unanimous and seven jurors recommended a 15-year minimum of time served before becoming eligible for parole for each count of second degree murder, with five jurors making no recommendation. Nine jurors recommended a consecutive sentence, while one juror recommended a concurrent sentence with two jurors making no recommendation.

The decision will ultimately be up to Justice Miriam Maisonville, though the jury’s recommendations will be taken into consideration.

The verdict will lead to a sentencing decision dealing with newer provisions in the criminal code the federal government put into place in 2011. The provisions pertain to verdicts with multiple homicides allowing consecutive parole ineligibility periods to be imposed.

“This is something new,” Dubenski said. “There aren’t many cases in British Columbia that have dealt with it since the implementation of that new legislation, so we’ll be looking at that and trying to figure out what kind of approach to take on the sentencing.” Defence counsel Don Skogstad said the case is out of his hands regarding whether or not Koopmans is planning an appeal.

“There are some things that happened at the end of the trial that are still being analyzed,” Skogstad said. “It’s not usually good practice for lawyers to do their own appeals, you get a second fresh look, so that’s what we have here. So it will be up to that lawyer.”

“It was a very long trial. I think there was some evidence that was difficult. This is why the verdict took much longer than normal,” said Skogstad.

Skogstad said the last jury to acquit in the area was 11 years ago.

“These days you have a fear-of-crime mentality that seems to pervade this process. I’ve been doing jury trials for over 30 years and years ago juries clearly acquitted frequently,” Skogstad said.

He said he believed there were problems with some of the evidence in the trial, though Koopmans avoided a first degree murder charge.

“We’re happy it’s not first (degree). We didn’t really see any basis for that. I tried to convince Crown not to pursue first. He may have some life left as of this verdict. First (degree), and that might not have been the case,” Skogstad said.

The case will convene briefly on April 27 at the Penticton Court House to set a date for sentencing.

Penticton Western News